A report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Yes, an international organization working for the clear and noble objective of nature’s conservation (1) actually wrote a 134 pages report (2) in 2018 to explain why palm oil’s alternatives are worse than what they claim to replace.
I know you might be very skeptical about that but here is a resume from the IUCN website :
The report does not claim that palm oils are good for the environment, obviously it’s still a huge biodiversity concern especially in tropical forests and this is what they say about it :
“Oil palm has been locally responsible for high deforestation rates. As much as 50% of all deforestation on the island of Borneo between 2005 and 2015 was driven by oil palm development. The current review indicated that in both Central America and West Africa between 1972 and 2015, oil palm made up 2–3% of forest loss. Where oil palm replaces tropical forest, the negative impact on biodiversity is significant. Conversion for oil palm has played a major role in the decline in species such as orangutans. However, some species, such as various pigs and snakes can, benefit from the presence of oil palm. Because oil palm is a long-lived crop, in mixed landscapes of oil palm and forests, older oil palm plantings can play some role in maintaining ecological connectivity between populations of forest species.”
It means that we cannot accept actual palm oils’ plantation policy. Some ecological solutions are envisaged but it’s not about stopping those plantations, it’s about making it as sustainable as possible.
But here is what we can also learn about it :
Because of its high yields, oil palm produces about 35% of all vegetable oil on less than 10% of the land allocated to oil crops.p. 17
If you have to buy oils’ products, it seems like palm oil is the best option. Mathematically, it would mean that we could produce 100% of all our actual vegetable oil by using only 28,57 % of our actual land allocation for oils.
BUT obviously it’s not that easy.
Because as the WWF’s 2012 report shows, 85% of the total palm oils’ production comes from Indonesia and Malaysia (3) (4)
Those numbers are also backed up by the IUCN’s report’s page 23 (PDF) :
So basically, it’s unlikely to see 100% of oil production becoming palm oil only.
Why alternatives are bad ?
As shown on this chart, any other oil would need at least 4 times more land to produce the exact same yield.
But why would it matter ?
First because countries producing oil today would actually use way more space and so deforest way more than today, and also because as the IUCN’s report says, it would only displace the biodiversity’s destruction… Plus the extra space (meaning extra water use, pesticides use, etc…)
Sounds terrible right ?
But you have a great solution ? Don’t you ?
Should we stop using oils product ?
That sounds great !… Doesn’t it ?
Well, more than 50% of packed products consumed in America (and other countries might not be better about it) contain palm oil. (4)
Now it sounds terrible.
But what are the alternatives then ?
Well, obviously you can stop buying and using any product with oil inside (and stop buying oils in any form) but that would be complicated. The best solution is to search for products using oils with a RSPO label (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) or any other that exists or will exist.
As terrible as it sounds, it’s our best solution right now. If you stop buying products with palm oils but keep buying other products with oils inside, you’re basically making it worse for the environment.
Replacing palm oils’ products for alternatives with other oils only for environmentalpurpose is : BULLSHIT SCIENCE.